Fun Michif Words

I’ve just acquired the book Metis Legacy II, which contains a lot of great information about Metis history and culture, including some info on the Michif language and some interesting words, which I shall share with you. I don’t know the etymology of all of these, so some will be written in a less phonetic spelling.

Chimuck – the splashing sound made by something dropped in water, also used as a phrase to mean “dropping in your tracks” or abrupt death. [I’m not sure where this comes from, but it’s used in Michif, Metis English, and Bungee, the extinct dialect of mixed Scottish/Orcadian English, Gaelic, Cree, and Ojibwe.]

Nicimos – sweetheart, a word for girlfriend/boyfriend/feyfriend. Also spelled nichimoose. [From Cree]

Chookamish – expression for looking sheepish, guilty, or unsteady. [I have no info on where this came from.]

Kiyam – a reply, meaning anything from “let it be” to “it’s all right” to “never mind” to “forget about it.” [From Cree]

Mojisair – exclamation of “Oh my God!” Also seen as mojichien. Pronounced “mozhiser,” “mozhishien.” [From French, mon Dieu, seigneur.]

Paskwa – expression for looking shabby or being financially embarrassed, also spelled pusqua. [Uncertain origin]

Mafwe – exclamation, “Oh my goodness!” Also spelled mafway. [Whereas mojisair comes from French, mafway comes from Cree. It also happens to be one of my favorite Michif words.]

9 thoughts on “Fun Michif Words”

  1. paskwa looks like Cree paskwâ- ‘open/bare’ to me. I wonder if that’s where it comes from?

    I’m pretty sure mafway is NOT Cree. There’s no f in Cree, for example. It looks like ma as in possessive ‘my’ from French, doesn’t it?

    Do you guys say something like “aben” (nasalized e on the end) when you stub your toes? :) Métis Cree speakers in Alberta use that.

    1. The paskwâ explanation seems to make sense. And oh, duh, I have no idea why I thought mafway was Cree. I’m not really sure where it comes from. Maybe it comes from “ma foi” meaning “my faith”?

      Ha, I haven’t heard that for stubbed toes, but aben/abaen does seem to be the most popular filler word or exclamation that can be used for almost any emotion imaginable, so I wouldn’t be surprised!

      1. Sometimes the French words in Michif are really ‘obscure’ from a standard French point of view. In Métis Cree, you get terms like lavwâlet for hat, which apparently comes from a term for a nun’s wimple. The Cree in Michif is kind of like this, too – narrowed, specialized stuff. Pretty neat! :)

    1. That would be “my liver”, but it’s pronounced the same as ma foi. :-)

      you get terms like lavwâlet for hat, which apparently comes from a term for a nun’s wimple

      La voilette, the little veil?

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